Bonsai trees have been around for over a thousand years. It is an ancient art which reproduces natural trees in miniature forms. Similar practices have existed in various different cultures as well.
The term ‘bonsai’ is a Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese term ‘penzai’ which is where it originated from. Vietnam also has their version of this art in the form of the ‘hòn non bộ’. Over time, the word bonsai has been used to refer to all miniature trees in containers or pots in general.
Although most of them are best kept outside, there are some species that are perfect for indoor gardening. Indoor bonsais are ideal for urban dwellers like people who live in apartments and condominiums.
If your limited space can only allow you to do indoor gardening, you can try any of the bonsai tree species below.
Holiday Cactus (Schlumbegera)
Jade Plant (Crassula ovata)
Chinese Elm (Ulmus parvifolia)
Olive family species
Brush Cherry (Eugenia mytrifolia)
Pomegranate (Punica sp)
Azaleas (Rhododendron sp)
Chinese Sweetplum (Sageretia thea)
Benefits of Bonsai Trees
Indoor bonsai trees, like any other type of plant, brings a lot of benefits to people. For starters, you don’t even need a backyard to do your gardening. You can grow them indoors, or you can also place them on your balcony.
Aside from ease of maintenance, taking care of bonsai trees is great for your health too. Take a look at the following health benefits:
It’s a wonderful hobby and a great stress reliever.
When placed indoors, bonsais can help purify the air.
Indoor plants have been proven to help fight illnesses like cold, cough, etc.
Taking care of them develops your patience and sense of empathy.
You’ll have a great sense of accomplishment from successfully growing your own bonsai tree.
Growing a bonsai from a seed
Growing a bonsai from a tree cutting is easier and less time-consuming. However, the sense of reward that you get from starting with a seedling until it matures is unparalleled.
It is a test of patience, that’s for sure. But to get you started with the process, here’s a step-by-step guide.
Apply a layer of a coarse, water-draining substrate. Lava rocks or grit works well. Gravel is also an excellent material to use in gardening. It provides quick drainage, so your bonsai does not drown from too much water.
Add a layer of regular bonsai soil. It should also be a well-draining soil. You may even need to do some research to find the best type of soil to use for the species of bonsai that you’re growing.
Place the seeds in the soil, leaving some room between them.
Cover the seeds with about an inch of standard bonsai soil.
Use your fingers to compact the soil a bit.
Water thoroughly and make sure that the soil is always slightly moist.
If growing from a seed isn’t for you , and you want a quicker start in growing your own bonsai tree, you can instead go down the tree cutting route.
Repeat steps 1 & 2 above.
Prune your desired tree to gather multiple cuttings.
Cut the base of each cutting at a 45 degree angle with sharp stem shears.
Plant the cuttings into the soil, about an inch deep.
The same as with planting seeds, water thoroughly and keep the soil moist. Your cuttings should start to grow in a matter of weeks.
Caring for a bonsai Tree
Despite their miniature sizes, bonsais are still trees. As such, taking care of them is pretty similar to regular trees. The only difference is you do it on a much smaller scale.
You should avoid common tree care mistakes when maintaining a bonsai. As long as you follow the tips below, your bonsai will grow as beautiful and as healthy as you need it to be.
During spring, summer, and fall, a bonsai tree needs to be placed outside if possible. If not, make sure that you put it on a humidity tray. Do make sure that the roots of the bonsai do not sit on water, as this can cause them to rot and make your bonsai tree weak.
Once winter starts setting in, the ideal location is obviously, indoors. However, place your bonsai in the brightest place available while avoiding hot objects like radiators and televisions. Setting it in a window facing south is perfect, so it’s still able to get enough sunlight.
Artificial lighting can also help if you think your bonsai is still not getting enough sunlight. Fluorescent lighting with radiating growth-friendly spectra as well as lights that use LEDs are good options.
Watering Your Bonsai Tree
NEVER, ever water your bonsai tree on a routine. That means that you should not follow the watering instructions that came with your bonsai. Ideally, check your bonsai every morning and during the evening to see if it needs watering.
The general rule is you should NEVER allow the soil to become completely dry. If the soil looks dark and feels wet, it doesn’t need water yet. But if the soil becomes light brown and feels damp, that’s your signal.
At the same time, make sure that the soil is not always wet. Watering should be done with a watering can or hose attachment. Softly dispense the water so the soil will not be disturbed.
Pruning and Trimming Your Bonsai Tree
Regular pruning is essential in keeping the beauty and grace of your bonsai tree. Never prune all of the new growth to keep it healthy. Once you notice new shoots about 2 to 3 centimeters, use bonsai scissors to cut back until only the first pair of fresh leaves remain.
The best time to do hard pruning is during spring. Your bonsai will look ‘ bare’ after this but don’t worry. New young shoots should appear after a few weeks.
Do note, that bonsai trees grow at different rates depending on the species. It’s advisable that you evaluate the growth of yours and adjust your pruning schedule accordingly.
Fertilizing Your Bonsai Tree
Feeding your bonsai fertilizer is also important to keep it healthy. Your bonsai is growing in a very small amount of soil, so it’s important that you replenish the soil’s nutrients regularly. Any generic liquid fertilizer will do, but it should be used at half the recommended strength.
Fertilizing should be reduced during winter. It’s not even advised to feed your bonsai during this season in some species. That’s because they’re dormant at this time and are barely growing.
Repotting Your Bonsai Tree
Repotting is required on all bonsais once their roots have filled the pot. Most deciduous bonsai trees need to be repotted every two to three years. Evergreens, on the other hand, should be repotted every four or five.
This process is done to supply your bonsai tree with fresh soil and to make way for a more compact root system. Repotting should be done in mid-summer. And again, not all bonsai trees grow at the same rate. You’ll need to examine the roots of your bonsai tree each year if it has become pot-bound.
Conclusion: What You Must Know About Your Bonsai Tree
Bonsai trees are indeed great works of art. These ‘little trees’ are simply beautiful and give off that calming effect every household deserves. The good news is that you don’t necessarily need to be an expert to grow bonsai trees.
The tips listed in this guide are very easy to follow and are made with beginners in mind. So go on, start working on your very first bonsai project and see how it goes.
Emma is a part-time property developer who loves sharing how others can make their homes amazing both inside and out on her blog Fixtures and Flowers. You can chat to Emma on Twitter.